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Archive for the ‘Edmond O’Brien’ Category

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode

One of the greatest Westerns of them all — and in my opinion, one of the finest American films ever made — is coming to Blu-ray in October. From the performances to the stunning black-and-white cinematography to the direction, John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) comes as close to perfection as any film I can think of. Every time I see it, I find something new to marvel at, from the huge steaks hanging of the sides of giant plates to a particular shot (like the one below) to John Wayne kicking Strother Martin in the face. The last time, it was the grace Woody Strode brought to his part as Pompey, Wayne’s ranch hand.

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I can’t think of a film I’d rather see make the move to Blu-ray.

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While doing some research on George Sherman’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa (1955), I came across The Odessa American from October 9, 1955. What was playing around town was incredible.

Ector: The Treasure Of Pancho Villa
Scott Theater: Night Of The Hunter 
Rio Theater (next door to the Scott): The Big Combo
Twin Terrace Drive-In: Wichita and New Orleans Uncensored
Twin Cactus Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and Coroner Creek
Broncho Drive-In: Las Vegas Shakedown and The End Of The Affair
Twin-Vue Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and The Denver And Rio Grande

You could spend your night with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Robert Mitchum or Rory Calhoun. If all that wasn’t enough, you could head to the Odessa High School field house on the 11th for The Western Revue Of 1955 with Lash LaRue and “Fuzzy” St. John in person — or wait a couple more days for Elvis Presley (“with Scotty and Bill”), Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner.

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By the way, the Ector Theater was restored in 2001 and runs classic movies from time to time. I love Texas.

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1 Liberty Ford

My wife and I watched John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) on our honeymoon. So as our anniversary rolls around, it usually comes to mind. And this seems like a good excuse to highlight yet another Ford masterpiece.

Liberty Valance Wayne hat

Here’s Wayne’s hat from the film. In black and white, it seems so much lighter.

Liberty Valance Marvin vest

Lee Marvin’s vest. After his years doing M Squad on TV, Liberty Valance helped Marvin transition from heavy to leading roles as he returned to features.

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One of Edith Head’s sketches for Vera Miles’ costumes.

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John Ford and his terrific cast break for tea. Judging from who’s present and how they’re dressed, they must’ve been shooting the dinner scene where Marvin makes Stewart drop Wayne’s steak — and Strother Martin gets kicked in the face.

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Jimmy Stewart punches John Wayne — with Ford and crew very very close.

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Jennifer and I often celebrate our anniversary by going out for steaks. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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Written and Directed by Delmer Daves
Director Of Photography: J. Peverell Marley, ASC
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster
Music by Victor Young

CAST: Alan Ladd (Johnny Mckay), Audrey Dalton (Nancy Meek), Marisa Pavan (Toby), Robert Keith (Bill Satterwhite), Charles Bronson (Captain Jack)

Not long after Shane (1953), Alan Ladd left Paramount, the studio that made him a star, and launched his independent company, Jaguar. Their first film was Drum Beat (1954). Based on the 1873 Modoc War, Ladd plays an Indian fighter recruited by President Grant to find a way to peace with the Modoc. Turns out the tribe wants peace, but a chief named Captain Jack (Charles Bronson) and his band of renegades are lousing things up. Repeated attempts for a peaceful resolution are unsuccessful, and we get a very exciting last couple of reels.

Though I’m not a big Alan Ladd fan, I really liked this one. It wears its “sympathetic treatment of the Indians” thing well, but never forgets that it’s action that puts people in the seats. Boy, a lot of people get shot in this thing.

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My job is to protect the wagon train. When somebody shoots at my people, I shoot back.”
— Alan Ladd

Ladd and Daves (and, of course, DP J. Peverell Marley) shot Drum Beat in Warnercolor and the then-new CinemaScope. As was the custom with ‘Scope at the time, they avoided close-ups, went for long takes whenever possible, and gave us lots of gorgeous vistas of Sonora, Arizona, and the Coconino National Forest. Daves always showed off the landscape in his Westerns, making each setting an essential element of the film, and this is one of Drum Beat’s great strengths. If there’s a film that makes better use of the Sonora area, I don’t know what it is.

The cast is a 50s Western fan’s dream: James H. Griffith (as a Civil War veteran who lost a leg at Shilo), Frank Ferguson, Elisha Cook, Jr., Willis Bouchey, Perry Lopez, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle and Strother Martin (who I heard was in it, but somehow missed). Of course, Charles Bronson makes quite an impression as Captain Jack in his first film under his new name (it had been Buchinsky, which was considered too Russian-sounding in the HUAC years).

With Drum Beat, Warner Archive gives us a pretty good-looking DVD. The Warnercolor is, well, Warnercolor — but here it looks as good as I’ve ever seen it look. The image is a tad soft at times (varying from shot to shot), some of which we can blame on the early CinemaScope. The audio is excellent; I love the stereo sound of these early Scope pictures, with an actor’s voice following them as they move around within the wide frame. This is a really good film, and a real treat in widescreen and stereo (I’d love to see a Blu-ray turn up someday). Highly recommended.

Alan Ladd and Delmer Daves reunited for The Badlanders (1958), also available from Warner Archive. I haven’t seen it in ages, and I’m really eager to revisit it.

Along with Drum Beat, two more Ladd Westerns came riding into town, thanks to Warner Archive.

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The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
CAST: Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen

Ladd’s a cattle man who works to build a town around a railroad hub, which will benefit the local ranchers. Of course, there’s someone who doesn’t want all this to happen.

As a drunk, Edmond O’Brien steals every scene he’s in. He’s terrific. This is WarnerColor again, and it’s not as well-behaved as it is in Drum Beat. Good movie, though, especially if you’re a fan of O’Brien or Virginia Mayo. Gordon Douglas is as dependable as ever.

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Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
CAST: Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon

This time, Ladd’s a lumberjack who arrives in the Northwest to take out a lot of trees. The townspeople are afraid Ladd’s efforts will cause mudslides and do other environmental harm. Frankie Avalon sings “Gee Whiz Whillikins Golly Gee,” which Bugs Bunny used to sing in the bumpers to The Bugs Bunny Show on Saturday mornings. This tune is just one of the things that put Guns Of The Timberland in that goofy time period that a lot of series Westerns exist in, where Old and New West, cars and buckboards peacefully coexist.

Jeanne Crain is beautiful, Gilbert Roland is as cool as ever, and Lyle Bettger actually gets to be a good guy for once. The Technicolor makes it to DVD looking like a million bucks, while alcohol has Ladd looking just terrible.

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A while back, I brought up an exclusive at Collector’s Choice on some Alan Ladd pictures from Warner Archive. Well, that arrangement has about run its course, and those titles will soon be available through normal Warner Archive channels.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland and Frankie Avalon

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There’s another exclusive, this time with Oldies.com, on a couple Allied Artists CinemaScope Westerns to be released July 15.

Oregon Passage (1958)
Directed by Paul Landres
Starring John Ericson and Lola Albright
Paul Landres made some solid low-budget Westerns (Frontier Gun, for instance), so I have high hopes for this one. Incidentally, it’s working title was Rio Bravo. Wonder how the change in title went down, with Howard Hawks’ own Rio Bravo in production around the same time?

Gunsmoke in Tucson (1958)
Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker
I’ve been on the lookout for this one for quite some time, which goes into familiar range war/brothers-on-opposite-sides-of-the-law territory. I’d also love to see Carr’s The Tall Stranger (1957), starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo, turn up on DVD.

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Warner Archive has given Collector’s Choice an exclusive on four Alan Ladd films, three of them Westerns. This is stuff many of us have been asking for. Click on the banner for more information.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.
This CinemaScope Western was the first film from Ladd’s Jaguar Productions, and it offered a good early role for Charles Bronson. Note the photo below: Daves, Jack Warner and Ladd commemorate Drum Beat with a cake.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.
I think we all take Gordon Douglas for granted, maybe because he didn’t “specialize” in Westerns the way so many of our favorites did. This one, Fort Dobbs (1958) and Yellowstone Kelly (1959) are all terrific.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon
Have to admit I’ve never seen this one. Looking forward to it.

A fourth film, The Deep Six (1958), is not a Western. Directed by Rudolph Maté, it’s a World War II picture with William Bendix and James Whitmore. Does it get any better than Whitmore in a war film?

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Directed by Leslie Selander
Produced by Scott R. Dunlap
Associate Producer: Edward Morey, Jr.
Screenplay by Adele Buffington
Adaptation by Tom W. Blackburn, from Curtis Bishop’s novel Shadow Range
Photographed by Harry Neumann, ASC
Film Editor: John C. Fuller, ACE
Musical Score and Direction: Edward J. Kay

CAST: Edmond O’Brien (Ben Anthony), Helen Wescott (Linda Garnett), Bob Lowery (Harry Odell), Barton MacLane (Marvin Parker), Peggie Castle (Melba Sykes), James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram.

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When the series Westerns were put out to pasture in the early 50s, Monogram became Allied Artists and shifted from series Westerns like The Long Horn (1952) with William Elliott to Westerns like Cow Country (1953). These films have the feel of series cowboy movies executed on a larger scale — bigger casts, better sets, about 20 minutes longer. There’s still the slimy banker, the plot to snatch land from the smaller ranches, lots of riding and shooting and bad guys like Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke. You’ve seen it all a thousand times, and it’s just as welcome in this form as it was before.

So while there’s nothing particularly new about Cow Country, there’s nothing to dislike about it, either. The plot’s a little convoluted, but you’re familiar with it. The area cattle businesses is in a bad way, and Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke are trying to take their land away. Edmond O’Brien runs a freight business and ends up being the hero. There’s a love triangle between Lowery, Helen Westcott and Peggie Castle. And, boy, do a lot of people get shot.

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O’Brien looks cool in a Levi jacket with his hat slightly cocked to one side. He didn’t make many Westerns, and his Bronx accent seems a little out of place, but he’s such a great actor, it works like a charm. He didn’t make many Westerns; I recommend Silver City (1951) and Denver And Rio Grande (1952) — and he’s remarkable in The Wild Bunch (1969).

Peggie Castle is known to B movie fans for turning up in about every genre you can think of, and looking terrific in them all. Here, however, she gets a part that lets her show what she’s capable of, and she’s very good. Whatever it was that kept her in low-budget movies, it wasn’t her acting ability. Her big scene here, where she goes after Lowery with a bullwhip, is very satisfying.

Cow Country gives James Millican a good part as an immigrant farmer, and Robert Wilke gets more screen time than usual — he’s a real slimeball in this one.

Leslie Selander could direct a film like Cow Country in his sleep, with this one coming hot on the heels of those wonderful Tim Holt Westerns for RKO. It moves so quick, and plays so smooth, that you never have a chance to think that you’re watching a clever variation on something you’ve seen many, many times before.

Cow Country is not available on DVD, but Allied Artists pictures turn up from Warner Archive. Watch for it.

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